Clinton reiterates US support for Georgia
Underscoring US backing for Georgia and the upcoming election’s importance for the country’s future, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, paid an official visit to Georgia on June 5-6 and met with Georgian government senior representatives and opposition figures.
“It is up to Georgia to consolidate your democratic gains,” Clinton said in Tbilisi. “That is the key to Georgia’s future and it will bring Georgia closer to achieving your Euro-Atlantic aspirations.”
She also spoke about the upcoming elections saying that “parliamentary elections in 2012, and presidential election in 2013 are a big opportunity for Georgia” to strengthen its democracy in the eyes of the local population and the society. “We urge Georgia’s leaders to ensure that it will be a competitive campaign and the elections will be free and fair,” Clinton said.
For Hillary Clinton, this was her second trip since July of 2010. This time she arrived in Batumi, Georgia’s Black Sea resort town late on Monday from Armenia in the frames of her Caucasus trip.
On Thursday Clinton opened the U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission session where in her welcoming speech she reviewed four priority areas of bilateral cooperation including democracy; trade and economy; defense and security. In addition, she touched upon people-to-people contacts and cultural exchanges as being a top priority on the agenda.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili assessed Clinton’s visit very positively saying that the tour has demonstrated the country’s important role in the global arena. “[Despite the world’s] problems, Georgia remains at the center of attention for the most influential powers,” Saakashvili said on June 6.
According to him, the U.S. has announced for the first time, after many years of hesitation, “that the U.S. will train the Georgian armed forces and assist Georgia in monitoring the land, coast and skies; as well as equipping Georgia with helicopters.”
Clinton participated in the handing-over ceremony of two Georgian coast guard patrol boats, renovated and modernized with U.S. funding. During her visit she met with Mikheil Saakashvili, Prime Minister Nika Gilauri and representatives from the opposition political parties, including Davit Gamkrelidze, leader of New Rights Party; MP Giorgi Targamadze, leader of the Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM) and three representatives from the Bidzina Ivanishvili-led opposition coalition.
Issues under discussion included the upcoming elections, as well as security, and Georgia’s NATO integration process.
Giga Bokeria, Secretary of Georgia’s National Security Council said that this visit is “extremely successful and very important” for Georgia. “High-level trade dialogue with the United States, which presents an opportunity for a free trade agreement with the U.S, is very important for the country,” he said.
Unlike Georgia, Clinton’s visit was assessed negatively in Russia with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov saying Clinton incites Saakashvili.
Mark Toner, Deputy Spokesperson said in the statement that the Secretary had a very a successful visit in Georgia. “We reiterated our core commitments to the Georgian people, to the government of Georgia and to its sovereignty. There’s no surprise that this is an area of major disagreement between us and Russia,” Marc Toner said.
From Batumi, Clinton traveled to Baku and then continued her trip to Turkey.
By Ia Natsvlishvili